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K. John. We cannot hold mortality's strong

hand :Good lords, although my will to give is living, The suit which you demand is gone and dead: He tells us, Arthur is deceas'd to-night.

Sal. Indeed, we fear'd his sickness was past cure. Pem. Indeed, we heard how near his death he was, Before the child himself felt he was sick: This must be answer'd, either here, or hence. K. John. Why do you bend such solemn brows

on me?
Think you, I bear the shears of destiny?
Have I commandment on the pulse of life?

Sal. It is apparent foul-play; and 'tis shame,
That greatness should so grossly offer it:
So thrive it in your game! and so farewell.

Pem. Stay yet, Lord Salisbury; I'll go with thee,
And find the inheritance of this poor child,
His little kingdom of a forced grave.
That blood, which ow'd12 the breadth of all this

isle, Three foot of it doth hold; Bad world the while! This must not be thus borne: this will break out To all our sorrows, and ere long, I doubt.

[Exeunt Lords. K. John. They burn in indignation; I repent; There is no sure foundation set on blood; No certain life achiev'd by others' death.--

Enter a Messenger. A fearful eye thou hast; Where is that blood, That I have seen inhabit in those cheeks? So fonl a sky clears not without a storm; Pour down thy weather:-How goes all in France ?

12 i. e. "own'd the breadth of all this isle. The two last variorum editione erroneously read 'breath for breadth,' which is found in the old copy.

Mess.

Mess. From France to England13.-Never such

a power For any foreign preparation, Was levied in the body of a land ! The copy of your speed is learn’d by them; For, when you should be told they do prepare, The tidings come, that they are all arriv’d. K, John. 0, where hath our intelligence been

drunk ? Where hath it slept14? Where is my mother's care? That such an army could be drawn in France, And she not hear of it?

My liege, her ear Is stopp'd with dust; the first of April, died Your noble mother; And, as I hear, my lord, The lady Constance in a frenzy died Three days before: but this from rumour's tongue I idly heard; if true, or false, I know not.

K. John. Withhold thy speed, dreadful occasion! 0, make a league with me, till I have pleas'd My discontented peers! – What! mother dead? How wildly then walks my estate in France15!Under whose conduct came those powers of France, That thou for truth giv’st out, are landed here? Mess. Under the Dauphin.

Enter the Bastard and PETER of POMFRET. K. John.

Thou hast made me giddy With these ill tidings.—Now, what says the world To your proceedings? do not seek to stuff My head with more ill news, for it is full.

Bast. But, if you be afeard to hear the worst, Then let the worst, unheard, fall on your head.

13 The king asks how all goes in France; the messenger catches the word goes, and answers, that whatever is in France goes now into England. 14 So in Macbeth :

._--_Was the hope drunk

Wherein you drest yourself? hath it slept since ?' 18 i. e. how ill my affairs go in France.

K. John. Bear with me, cousin; for I was amaz’d16 Under the tide: but now I breathe again Aloft the flood; and can give audience To any tongue, speak it of what it will.

Bast. How I have sped among the clergymen, The sums I have collected shall express. But, as I travelled hither through the land, I find the people strangely fantasied; Possess'd with rumours, full of idle dreams; Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear: And here's a prophet17, that I brought with me From forth the streets of Pomfret, whom I found With many hundreds treading on his heels; To whom he sung, in rude harsh-sounding rhymes, That, ere the next Ascension-day at noon, Your highness should deliver up your crown. K. John. Thou idle dreamer, wherefore didst

thou so? Peter. Foreknowing that the truth will fall out so.

K. John. Hubert, away with him; imprison him; And on that day at noon, whereon, he says, I shall yield up my crown, let him be hang'd: Deliver him to safety 18, and return, For I must use thee.-0 my gentle cousin,

[Exit HUBERT, with PETER.. Hear’st thou the news abroad, who are arriv'd ? Bast. The French, my lord; men's mouths are

full of it:

16 Astonied, stunned, confounded, are the ancient synonymes of amazed, obstupesco. So in Cymbeline :

'I am amazed with matter.' And in the Merry Wives of Windsor :

'You do amaze her, hear the truth of it. 17 This man was a hermit in great repute with the common people. Notwithstanding the event is said to have fallen out as he prophesied, the poor fellow was inhumanly dragged at horses' tails through the streets of Warham, and together with his son, who appears to have been even more innocent than his father,

ed afterwards upon a gibbet. Holinshed, in anno 1213. Speed says that Peter the hermit was suborned by the pope's legate, the French king, and the barons for this purpose.

18 i. e. to safe custody.

Besides, I met Lord Bigot, and Lord Salisbury
(With eyes as red as new-enkindled fire),
And others more, going to seek the grave
Of Arthur, who, they say, is kill'd to-night
On your suggestion.
K. John.

Gentle kinsman, go,
And thrust thyself into their companies:
I have a way to win their loves again;
Bring them before me.
Bast.

I will seek them out.
K. John. Nay, but make haste; the better foot

before.-0, let me have no subject enemies, When adverse foreigners affright my towns With dreadful pomp of stout invasion!Be Mercury, set feathers to thy heels; And fly, like thought, from them to me again. Bast. The spirit of the time shall teach me speed.

[Erit. K. John. Spoke like a spriteful noble gentle

man.
Go after him; for he, perhaps, shall need
Some messenger betwixt me and the peers;
And be thou he.
Mess.
With all my heart, my liege.

[Exit. K. John. My mother dead !

Re-enter HUBERT. Hub. My lord, they say, five moons were seen

to-night: Four fixed; and the fifth did whirl about The other four, in wondrous motion. K. John. Five moons ? Hub. Old men, and beldams, in the streets Do prophesy upon it dangerously: Young Arthur's death is common in their mouths: And when they talk of him, they shake their heads, And whisper one another in the ear; And he, that speaks, doth gripe the hearer's wrist;

Whilst he, that hears, makes fearful action,
With wrinkled brows, with nods, with rolling eyes 19.
I saw a smith stand with his hammer thus,
The whilst his iron did on the anvil cool,
With open mouth swallowing a tailor's news;
Who, with his shears and measure in his hand,
Standing on slippers (which his nimble haste
Had falsely thrust upon contráry feet20),
Told of a many thousand warlike French,
That were embattailed and rank'd in Kent:
Another lean unwash'd artificer
Cuts off his tale, and talks of Arthur's death.
K. John. Why seek'st thou to possess me with

these fears?
Why urgest thou so oft young Arthur's death?
Thy hand hath murder'd him: I had a mighty cause
To wish him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him.
Hub. Had none, my lord! why, did you not pro-

voke me? K. John. It is the curse of kings to be attended By slaves, that take their humours for a warrant To break within the bloody house of life: And, on the winking of authority, To understand a law; to know the meaning Of dangerous majesty, when, perchance, it frowns More upon humour than advis'd respect21.

Hub. Here is your hand and seal for what I did. K. John. 0, when the last account 'twixt heaven

and earth

19 This may be compared with a spirited passage in Edward III. Capel's Prolusions, p. 75:

"Our men, with open mouths and staring eyes,
Look on each other, as they did attend
Each other's words, and yet no creature speaks ;
A tongue-tied fear hath made a midnight hour,

And speeches sleep through all the waking region.' 20 This passage, which called forth the antiquarian knowledge of so many learned commentators, is now, from the return of the fashion of right and left shoes, become intelligible without a note. 21 Deliberate consideration. So in Hamlet :

" There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.'

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